THE LETTERS

THE LETTERS - Part 1

LETTERS FROM OR TO MICHAEL AND EDWARD HOLMES, C.S.A, 1861- 1865

EDITED BY: GORDON W. HOLMES, JR.
January, 1995,  Revised August, 2000



Introduction

Michael Holmes was born in Ausan County, North Carolina on July 22,1827, the first child of James and Martha "Patsey" Thurman Holmes. James was born in North Carolina and Patsey was born in Tennessee in 1803. Not much is known about Mike's early life or where he lived except where his sisters and brother were born as determined from the Henry County, Alabama census of 1850. Mike's oldest sister ,Jane Holmes Jordan (1829-1878) was born in South Carolina, followed by Lively Holmes (1832-1897) who was also born in South Carolina. Edward (Ned) his only brother (1834-1864) was born in Georgia as was Mary Holmes Fears. There is some confusion about Mary's birth date, her tombstone at Judson indicates she was born March, 1837; whereas the 1850 census says she was 14 in 1850 and her younger sister Martha Ann Holmes Helton was born May 22, 1837 in Georgia. Mary died in January, 1906 and Martha died October 19,1926. The youngest Lovinia "Viny" Holmes Fears (3/12/39-12/6/20) was born in Florida.

Mike's father, James according to family tradition, left the family in Atlanta to go west to look for land to homestead. He was never heard from again; but that leads to another family legend about the sugar tongs. There may be many inconsistencies here since James' youngest child, Viny was born in Florida. Mike as oldest son was sole support of his family and supposedly worked as an overseer to support them. Once again family legend says he rode a winning horse in a race in Atlanta the purse for which was enough for him to move his mother , five sisters and one brother to Henry County, Alabama. 

Mike's obituary says he and the family arrived in Henry County in 1845 and settled near what was then known as Wesley, some seven miles northeast of Abbeville. He was probably initially engaged in farming, but his later activities indicate several very diverse vocations.

Mike married Martha Howerton on January 1, 1852. The Howerton's were neighbors near Wesley and her brother James served with Mike throughout the war. Martha Howerton Holmes died during childbirth with Mike's first child whom his will indicates was named Martha, although the family has known her as Andelia. She is believed to have been raised by the Howerton family following her mother's death.

Mike married Martha Eliza Roberts, daughter of Rev. Birch M. and Harriet W. Roberts on July 17, 1860. It is believed that their first child was born the day after Mike departed for Montgomery for the war. This may explain why Mike's first letter indicates he has recently been home and is returning to his unit. It is also believed that Mike had no slaves prior to marrying Martha Roberts, but she brought two house workers with her.

Mike's unit had been raised in Abbeville and was known as the Henry Grays. A second unit was also raised at this time and was known as the Henry Blues. One surmises that these color distinctions indicated the color of their respective uniforms. These two companies were sent to Montgomery, and were mustered into a regiment which was designated the Sixth Alabama Volunteer Infantry.

The Henry Grays are designated as Company A and the Henry (Columbia) Blues are designated as Company K, which are the most honored position in a regimental battle line, indicating the regiment's flanks. The balance of the regiment's then ten companies, are from Autauga, Russell, and what is later Lee County. The regiment is commanded by Col. John J. Seibels who had commanded a battalion of infantry during the Mexican War. 

It is interesting that Company I of the 6th Ala Inf. known as the 'Raccoon Roughs", was from Jackson County, and was commanded by Captain (later Major General) John B. Gordon for whom Fort Gordon, Georgia was named. Much of our information about the 6th Ala comes from General Gordon's book since he was later commander of the 6th.


Dear Mat

Camp near Montgomery May 23rd /61

I reached the camp today at noon without any accident. I found the company where I left them and don't know when we will git off. I think about Sunday we will be sent to Corinth Miss. I learned from a man who lives near that place that Corrinth is one of the delightful places in Miss. I found the boys all well, nary one on the sick list. No more measels in camp. Tell Mr. Howerton that Jim is giting along first rate. I told George Roberts to write his wife what to do about his land trade. I want to hear from you and that kiten of yours very much. I shall be uneasy about you til (I) hear from you, tho I feel that all is well I want some of you to write how the crop looks----- at work in fact all about things generally. I was very proud to find my company here when I got back. The boys proud to see me, ast me a thousand questions. You may direct your letter to Montgomery, if we ar gone our letters will be farward to us. Direct your letter as follows

M. Holmes
Montgomery, Ala
Care of A. C. Gordon
Capt of Henry Grays

I can't write much to nite I have not slept since I left home as I had to travel all nite last nite. I will write more next time. I am very well and when I hear you are well I shall be perfectly sadisfide. There is no war news here, the general opinion is here that there will be no fight. dear Mat be prudent how you act for a week or two yet. I will write again soon, not however til we get to Corrinth I must close

Mike

P S tell Ned to write to me & all the rest you may as well write enough to take all the sta(m)ped invelops you have got they want the UN State Stamps wont do after the 1st of June after that time you will have to pay fine etc for poastige in money

My love to all Mike


Monday Eavning
Camp near Corrinth May 27th /61

Dear Mat

I write you a few lines to let you hear from me. We reached this place this morning without any accident accept about ten of the boys lost there hats off the cars. We left Montgomery Saturday morning & got to Atlanta about sundown. We staid there one hour. I did not have the chans to see any of my connections. I saw one man I new, Thos L. Thomas. I went to school to him. When he met me he told me he had whipped me many times, now he wanted me to whip somebody els at Atlanta. They wanted to put us in box cars. Our Capt. refused to let us ride in them so we got good cars to Chatanooga which place we reached about day light. As we got to the depo the car run off but done no hurt. We staid at Chatnuga about 2 hours. We then taken the Charlston & Memphis Railroad for Coreinth. Then comminced the grandist seanry that I ever looked on. We run down Tennisee river for 35 miles ride along the raing of the Cumberland Lookout & Rackoon Mountain. The mountains on each side looked as tho they reached the sky. While we was in the valley below at about ten oclock we came to Stephenson Ala on the north side of the Tenisee river. There we lay over till 4 oclock in the evening where we saw a mountain seanery indeed. I will tell you in ung next what I saw at that place, I have not got time as I want this to go off by eaving mail. The boys are all tolerable well some few are complaining a little tho nothing serious. I am very well myself but very tired teravling. I don't like the place where we are camped neither do I like the water, tho its said to be very healthy it is mineral water lcalle baiti strong. I will write to Ned in a day or two. I have not herd from home since I left. I guess Aurey & Green Holly got home Sunday. Be sure to write once a week. Jim Howerton & George Roberts are all well in fact all the boys out of our settlement ar well. I have no doubt you will hear that we have the small pox in the camp don't believe any fling reports you hear you can not hear the truth. I don't (k)no(w) how long we will stay here nor where we will go when we leave this place. I will keep you posted. Give my love to all & let me hear from you often. Direct your letters to Corrinth Miss to M Holmes care of A.C. Gordon Capt. of Henry Grays I want see you very much but will bar the seperation as becomes a man fighting for his rights. I must close, be assured I shall ever remain

Your affectionate
Mike

[The George mentioned above is George Roberts, Martha's brother. Mike is presently serving with two of his Brothers in Law; Jim Howerton and George Roberts and will continue with them throughout the War]


FLAG STATIONERY

Camp near Corinth, June 6th / 61

Dear Mat
I am very tired this evening but will try to write you a short letter to let you hear from me. My health was never better. I am getting along very well with the acception of soar feet. I have been on gard duty for 25 hours and it has wore my feet out. They will be all rite by morning. I have been a little uneasy about you sins I read your letter by Mr. Lively which was Wensday morning, tho I think you ar strait by this time. I have recieved but two letters from you & two from Ned one Martha Ann sins I left home. I don't know how many I have written home. I want to hear from home -since- a week no body has written whether we got a good stand of Peas or not. I want to hear things that looks trifling at home is quite interesting to me here. The order here now is that we go to Virgina to morrow or next day we may not git off that soon but I guess we will go to Richmon soon. I want you to write me two letter, one to Corinth, the other to Richmon Va. I have no ida there will be any fight any where I have doubts about the health of this place in fact I am sadisfied it is a sickly place. If you hear sertain that we have left Corinth you need not write. we will telagraph to Mr Layton when we start, so if you hear in that way we are gone you may rely on it. I got a few lines from Ned by -Hull Odom- by the by I had like to have failed to say that the Columbia Blues reached this place Tuseday nite we were glad to see them. I hope they may git into our regment. I have some doubts about it tho. [This Company was assigned to Mike's Regiment as Co. L, which is unusual in that this regiment had 12 companies instead of the normal 10] Tell Ned to write to me again not to wait for me for I tell you I don't have much time to write. Tell Martha Ann to write me once a week-Give her money to pay postage. If I could hear from you all two or three times a week I would git along first rate. I am not afraid of being sick much. I never was in better health & I don't think we will have to go through any more than we did giting to this place & for a week after we got here the boys from our neighborhood ar all well. Jim has had a cold but has got about over it. He is surgant of the gard today. Tell Mrs. Bell that Ben is giting along first rate. I have not heard a word of complaint of him since he got here. He is a good soldier. My opion now is that the war will come to a close by the first of September. I may be mistaken they sertainly dont -aprehend- an attack from the North much or they would not move the troops from this place. I think the Confederate States is consintrating troops at Richmon to gard the Congress which meets at that place on the 9th of July. The old Federal Congress meets on the 4th of July after that has met I think they will end the war. I have no time  to write any more at this time. George is very well, Give my love to all 

Mike

P.S. tell your mother to stay with you all she can til I come home if you are well when you receive this write me a long letter. We'll see about -naming- that Baby you think is so pretty when I come home [They named her Virginia]

(MARGIN) I shall write to Mr Howerton tomorrow Send word to George's wife that we go to Va so she may write him at that place let me no if the oats was any acount


FLAG STATIONERY

June 6th /61 (Corinth) 9 Oclock at nite

Dear Mat
I wrote a letter to you this eavning which would leave you in  doubt as to our distination. Sins writing the letter to you refurd (referred) to we have orders to be reddy to leave for Richmon Virgina on the 1 oclock train tomorrow. So you must direct your letter to that place. Send word to George's wife of our change of orders as I don't know that he will have the time to write. We will have to cook 2 days rations to carry with us. There is grate rejoising in the camp in view of the move. We ar all anxious to go. We know it will be much better than where we ar. I will write you as soon as we stop. be che(e)rful the move is the best thing for us that could be done. our mail - facilities- with home will be better than from this place. We will still be within three days travil of home. I am perfectly delighted with the change. Be sure to write at one(ce) direct to Richmon Virgina to the tear of A.C. Gordon Capt. of Henry Grays. Tell Mr. Howerton folks Jim is all rite. I can't write to the old man til we stop. Yours --

Mike


FLAG STATIONERY

Linchburg Va June 13th/ 61

Dear Mat we left Corinth on
the 7th expecting to go to Richmon in three days. on the 12th we got to Linchburg - at that place we got a dispatch- they have got more troops at Richmon than they - - Mat we had nothing but bad luck from the time we left Corinth til we got here. The cars run off & stoped us 12 hours. It was a very daingers affar. We were running at about 20 miles an hour when she run off. The car that I was in staid on. I bin looking out for something of the sort & had got a car near the midle of the train which is not so likely to be smashed up. Luckily we had no one bad hurt. Three of four of the boys got hurt a little. Stephen Kiney -Tell Murphey- & some others were a little lame. We ar in camp at this time one and l/2 miles from the city of Linchburg in one of the prettest places I ever saw. The warter good & plenty of it. We ar in full view of the Alagany Mountains. I don't no how long we will stay here. I think for some time ar at least til we rest & stratin up a little. I have not herd from home in ten days. I guess I have letters sent to Richmond. We will git our letters from there in a few days. We have several sick in the company. Nothing serious at this time. We had to leave John Hardy at Corinth & Henry Culver on the way between here & there. There is several casis of Measles amongst us at this time. My health is very good. Jim Howerton has a bad cold, tho he is up. I have no more time to write. I will write again soon. Write to me often. I want to hear from -you- very bad. Direct your letters to Linchburg Va.

Mike


JEFF DAVIS STATIONERY

Near Linchburg, June 14th /61

Dear Mat
I writ you a line to let you no that I am well. We have orders to leave here this evening for Manassas Junction Virginia. It is about five hours run from where we ar to that point. I think we will stay there for some time. There is several sick with cold. Tom Lightfoot & James Howerton ar both complaining. Direct your letters to Manassas Junction Va tear of A.C. Gordon Capt. of Henry Grays. I have not herd a word from home in two weeks. I think very strang that I can't get a letter from home. I got a letter yesterday from Woodville on business three days later than anything I have had from home. Please write me often. There is no war news thst can be relide on. I don't think there will be any fight. This climate suits me. My health is first rate. If I could only hear from home I would be all rite. No time to write more have to cook to early with us.

Mike

George & Orin is well so is Bell & Guisendyner. Tony Gamble is a little sick I believe with measels. They don't hert the men here they hardly stop fur them.


June 20th / 61, Manassas Junction

Dear Mat I wrote to you last Sonday as soon as we reached this place. I fear you don't get my letters. You can not coccieve how sad I have bin since yesterday. The Henry Grays got a large Package of letters when they were all handed out there was nothing for me. It is very straing that I can't get a letter. There was three for James Howerton. I broke his from the old man open. In that letter he said my folks were all rite as far as he new. That is every word I have herd since -curry- came back Jim Howerton & Tom Lightfoot ar still at Lynchburg sick. We got a letter from them this morning. They write they ar gitting along very well. Tom has Pneumonia Jim has Measels. They ar both mending. There is nearly one half the company sick with Measels & cold. I am not well myself. Guess I am taking measels. I am not confined to my tent tho I have a verry bad cough & some fever. I am not afraid of the measels hurting me. That have not kept any one laid up over three ar four days. I may only have bad cold & not measels. The nights here ar very cool we have to sleep under one ar two blankets & it don't agree with a Southerner. I have no Ida how long we remain in this place. We may be mooved any day to Alaxadra. They is a rumer to that afect how true it is I do not no. We ar near enough to hear the cannon in a little fight they had the other evning. (This was probably an action at Vienna, Va on June 17, eight Yankees killed, no rebs killed) Our folks kild ten of the enamy & burnt three cars with out the loss of a man. I don't think there will be much fighting tho there may be if the thing is not settled soon there will have to be a bunch. If the worst comes to the worst we have no doubt as to the result. When shal I get a letter from home. Tell Ned I have not recvd a line from him since (Hull) Odom came to Corinth. I want to hear all about my crop corn, cotton, peas, potatoes &c I think I will come home in September. I will if I can tho the chance to git off from here (is) bad tho I have strong hopes that we will be discharged by that time. I can't think of nothing more to write. I don't feel much like writing. I shant write much more til hear from some of you. Did you get a note I sent by -Prince Candy & ---- there is about thirty of our boys sick at Linchburg. They ar all doing well we hear. Jim Howerton & Tom Lightfoot ar not in the Horsepital the balance (of our boys) all ar. If I get sick I will go to a private house. This is the poorist looking old country you ever saw. I don't see how they live but they rais a heap of cattle. We have the best beef I ever eat & plenty of it in fact we get plenty to eat and it good Tell James Helton to write me a letter. When we git plenty of paper I will write to a good many of my friends. Tell Mr. Howerton I wrote him a few times the other day. Tell him I don't look for Jim to leave Linchburg in less than 14 or 15 days. Dr. Price went down to Linchburg this morning. I told him to keep Jim there till he got good well. George is well he got a letter yesterday Orin is also well if you or you(r) Ma writes to -cop or William- tell them where to write to me. I would like to hear from them. Direct your letters to Manassas Junction Va. Give my love to all. Tell Andelia I sent her some candy. Don't no whether it got home or not. I must close. I no you can't read all I have written.

Good by for a week Mike


Lynchburg Va, July the 4th/ 61

Dear Mat, you will no doubt be surprised to hear that I am at Lynchburg, so I will tell you how I came to be here. When our company was ordered from Manasas Junction to Farfax, I was not able to go. So had to be left behind. I staid about four days with Measels. Jest as soon as the fever left me I got up and went to the rail road. Lay there all day till 9 oclock at nite when there came along a train. I stopped her & got aboard & went on to Farfax where my company was. The boys was very glad to see me but mitey sceard for feare I had taken cold. I was determined to git away from the place where I was. It was the most intolerable place in God's creation. I left six or seven of our boys there when I left. George left when I did. He had been left to wait on me. I got to Farfax Thursday nite. Friday morning I was a little stoped up but it wore off through the day. On Sunday I got a letter from Tom Lightfoot at Lynchburg saying that Jim Howerton was worse. I got permishion to go back to Lynchburg & see him. I left Sunday nite & got to Lynchburg Monday evening. From Farfax to Lynchburg is 160 miles. I found Jim about well. He had a backset five days before but had entirely recovered. I was conciderably forteagued when I got to Lynchburg. I needed rest very much. When I got there Tom Lightfoot went back to Farfax and left me & Jim behind. I shall remain here sevearl days not that I am sick but the orders ar for no man that has had Measels to be put on duty under 18 days. 
I am conciderably reduced & week. I am mending up very fast. The people where me and Jim is staying is the kindest folks I ever saw. I all most think I am at home. We get everthing that is good to eat in fact every thing we want. I never lived so well in my life. I am drinking peach brandy & honey & tell you it is hard to beet. I have not lay up nary hole day with Measels For two days I was too sick to li up & after that I didn't feel like it. The Measels left me very hoars but I have about got well of that. I think now I am out of dainger of taking cold. I left Ben Bell at Manassas Junction very sick. I have herd from there one since I left. He was still very sick but I hope is better by this time. He had Pneumonia from taking cold after Measels. I co(u)ld not make him take ceare of himself. I left Tom Harvy there very low did not think he could live but have herd since I came here that there was some hops of his recovery. The last letter I recieved from home was dated 24th of June. I feare you have suferd for want of rain. I want to hear from home very bad at this time. You no by this time how the corn will be & whether we will have anough to do. Tell Ned I reed his letter & will write to him in a few days. I would write to him today but Jim has jest written him & I am tired. You must direct your letters to Manassas Junction Va as I shall not stay at this place long anough to recieve one. Write to me often I have not got time to write any moor as I have got to go to town and mail my letter. I have jest eat the best diner you ever saw & feel like I could whip 6 Yankees. I don't know what to say about the war. If there is not a settlement soon there will be some hard fighting. Some of our Regment has had a brush with them. They killed 8 Yankees & only lost one man. That is about the way they fight all the time. We kill 8 to one. I will write again in a few days. Tell Met I rec'd his letter. He must write me often. I will write him soon. Give my love to all

Mike

It is unnecessary for me to say anything to Ned as he will see this & Jim has written him today. He has also written the old man. Tell Met when he gits don laying by to put plenty of pine straw in the lot. Mike


Lynchburg Va, July the 6th/61

Dear Ned 
I recevd a letter from you a few days ago. Was glad to hear that all was giting along well. I wrote a letter to Martha on the 4th which will explain my being at Lynchburg. I think I have nearly entirely recovered from the Measels. I feel as well as I ever did but I am yet hoars. I entended starting to Farfax tomorrow to join my company but it is raining today & looks like ther would be a wet spell. If it should keep raining I will not go. I shall not leave here till the weather clears up. As soon as it dos I will go on. I received a letter from -E W Teague- yesterday in which I got the sad news that Ben Bell was ded & also that Tom Harvey was ding. It hurt me very much. They were both sick at the same place I was they both had Measels & taken cold & Pneumonia. When I left them I thought Harvey would di but had no ida that Ben would in fact I did not think him at all daigerous. It was a miserable place to be sick at. It would have kild me to stay there. I think there has bin abundance of sickness in our Regment Principally Measels. The Regment is about 1300 strong & when I left there was only about 800 men fit for duty but they ar giting well & falling in pretty fast now. I hope after we git through with Measels we will be healthy. The weather here for several days till yesterday felt like a sharp October morning at home. They ar jest cuting there wheat here now. It is very fine. The corn is from half leg to knee high & some of the best is waist high. They rais the finest catt(l)e here I ever saw. We have the best beef in the world raised on Blue grass & clover the beef suits me. There is so many reports about the war & so many fals(e) ones that I cant write you any thing Reliable One thing I know we have a powerful army on the Potomac & in every scirmish as yet they have bin no match for our troops. I have seen a good many of the(i)r prisinors that our folks has taken. They dont look like they were able to fight our troops. They ar mostly low Dutch & Irish. Our Regment is on the advanced post of the army at Farfax Station which is 8 miles from Alaxandre & 17 miles from Washington City. It is 140 miles from where I am to Manasas Junction & 10 miles from there to Farfax. I can go to Manassas in 8 ours. Farfax is on the Orange & Alaxandra Railroad & the cars dont run any further than Farfax. From there to Alaxandra the R Road is uterly demolished. Our folks don it to keep the enamy from giting to Manassas Junction. Ned I want you to see that the horses & mules ar well taken care of. You will have to brake Charly & the black horse to help hall in the crop. Make expencis light as posable. Times will be very hard. Take care of every thing. Write to me often write fuly about every thing I am spending good deal of money every thing is so high show this (to) all at home

Mike


Farfax Station July the 10th /61

Dear Mat as -Esgn King- I think will git a discharge & go home to morrow ar nixt day I have concluded to send you a letter. I no then that you will git it & I have no evadence that you git half the letters that I write to you. I wrote you from Lynchburg last week which I hope you have got as I expect that you have been very uneasy about me since I had Measels. Me & Jim left Lynchburg last Sonday morning & got to this place Sonday eavning. We found every thing quite in camp no exitement Some think we will have a fight. I cant tell I dont believe there will be much fighting if any the old Federal -reck- cant make any thing by fighting us for we ar all redy & they very well no they cant whip us. I dont think they will try it. If they do they will have to risk the conciquencis. I have nearly recoverd from Measels. I have not muster(e)d but once since I was sick. The weather has bin rainny & I was afraid to go out my tong(ue) & mouth is soar yet but dont bother me much. Jim is giting along very well. He has not gon on duty yet but will I guess in a day or two We were paid off yesterday we got $37.13 each that is privats the officers got more. I am very uneasy about the corn. I feare we will not make anough to do us. I have had no letter from home since the 24th of June. You had no rain then & I have no evdens that you have had any yet. I hope you have & will make corn anough to do. We can make out with seven hundred bushels if the drouth was not very sevear indeed we aught to make that much. I want plenty of pine straw put in the lot & waggon Bugy shelter built. Tell Met I want the cotton where the seed I got from Gordon was kept to itself so we can save the seed. You must make expencis lite for we will have awful hard times next year. I dont want to git in debt. Since I commenced this letter I have recvd one from you dated the 2nd which hope me up very much to hear you had got rain though I feare you can not make much corn. I have bin giting letters from you & Ned lately very Reglar. I hope I may continue to do so. I want Ned to write how much corn he thinks we will make. I want all the Fodder saived & every thing els that will make food for man or Beast. You need not be uneasy about me I think I am out of daiger of the Measels. As to the war I dont know what to say. I think it will close soon. There is two powerful armies (with)in fifteen miles of each other. So if peace cant be made it wont take long to fight it out. We ar a chans to do what has to be done & git away from here before winter as the weather will be very cold. The most of our company is giting well. There has bin at least 40 sick. We have lost two Thos Harvy & B. Bell for which I am very sory for they were Berred neare Manassas Junction by a S C Regment in the honors of war our Regment not being there the sad rite had to be performed by straingers. We have only one man at this time that is concidered daingers. That is Edward Koach. They think he is a little better. Luke (Hurst) came very near d(y)ing. He is still at Lynchburg but was able to be up when I left. I look for him here today or tomorrow.  I saw Miles Thurman today going to the horsepital at Culpeper C.H. he had Measels. We git along very well about some thing to eat. We can by as much milk & butter as we want we also git good beef we cant git no vegatables for they cant rais them here. I dont no how long we will remain at this place but think we will remain in this neighborhood for some time & perhaps til we ar discharged. Tell Met I recvd his letter. I was glad he wrote to me. He must write again he sees all my letters I shant have time to write much after I report for duty which I think I will do in the morning. I wrote Ned last week from Lynchburg. You were under -as- mistake about my being tired. It is true I want to see you all at home but if I was there & node (knew) that the country was invaded by the Hirelings of Lincoln I would leave for the seat of war the first chance. I think I will want drawers & shirts made by the 25th of October. That will be about court (time). I think I will be home about that time. E.W. Teague will be home about the 1st of August. I will then let you no what I want in the way of cloths. Write to me oftin. I will close

Mike



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by Carolyn Golowka

Last Updated: Friday, March 14, 2003